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Industrial action at Sellafield due to health and safety row

Workers at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria have voted to take industrial action in a row over health and safety, said the Unite union.

Sellafield Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Unite said its 1,200 members at the site in Cumbria overwhelmingly backed a campaign of action.

A meeting will be held next week to decide what form the action will take.

Unite said it had been trying for 10 months to have a union official appointed to a health and safety role at Sellafield, adding that talks have now broken down.

Our members have lost patience with Sellafield management who have steadfastly continued to ignore our very reasonable request.

All they are asking for is their right for a co-worker to become a union shop steward at the Sellafield site to represent construction workers and keep them safe.

It makes sense for our members and the company and it will help improve industrial relations and a safety and welfare culture at the site.

Unite members have no wish to take action but are being forced to do so by a company unwilling to take our members' concerns seriously.

– Regional officer Steve Benson

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Sellafield firm loses clean-up contract

Private consortium Nuclear Management Partners is to be stripped of a multibillion-pound contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield Credit: PA

Private consortium Nuclear Management Partners is to be stripped of a multibillion-pound contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield, the Government has confirmed.

The £9 billion contract will switch to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Nuclear Management Partners, comprised of US engineering group URS, British firm AMEC and French energy firm AREVA, has run the site for more than six years, and was granted a five-year extension in 2013, despite criticism from unions of its performance.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: "Sellafield is the biggest and most complex nuclear site in Europe, so it's right that we keep the way it's being managed under constant review.

"We have seen great examples of how this approach can work with Crossrail and the Olympics - and I'm confident we'll see similar results at Sellafield."

Sellafield management: Challenges are 'unprecedented'

Challenges of cleaning up waste at a Cumbria nuclear site are "unprecedented" and more complex than "any other operational or decommissioning nuclear site in the world", the head of the team overseeing Sellafield nuclear site.

NMP chairman Tom Zarges dodged claims costs were spiralling out of control and said the consortium was focused on building on "our experience of the last five years".

The challenges at Sellafield are unprecedented, with complexities exceeding any other operational or decommissioning nuclear site in the world, therefore demanding extraordinary technology and skills.

The first term of our contract has been characterised by many successes but also a number of disappointments and areas for improvement.

Our job now is to build on our experience of the last five years to safely and reliably deliver our customer's mission, while further accelerating the pace of change and providing value for money to the NDA, Government and the UK taxpayer.

– NMP chairman Tom Zarges

Taxpayers interests at Sellafield not 'being protected'

The consortium overseeing the clean up of waste at Sellafield nuclear site has failed to meet taxpayer demand and the National Audit Office should review the management of the site, MPs have said.

The American-led management were accused of failing to train and keep staff to the detriment of the project, as well as planning a future for the site which "doesn't make sense".

We are not confident taxpayers' interests are being protected in the contractual relationships between the private companies involved in managing and operating the Sellafield site.

The Authority has not properly explained how it is going to deal with the large stock of plutonium stored at a cost of around £40 million a year.

It wants to build a 'MOX' plant for converting plutonium into fuel for nuclear power stations - but no UK power stations can use this fuel.

The cost of building and operating a MOX plant would be more than the value of the fuel produced. It just doesn't make sense.

– Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge

Cost of hazardous waste clean up at Sellafield at £70bn

The cost of cleaning up nuclear waste at Sellafield has soared to "astonishing" levels, with latest figures estimating the bill has already hit £70bn, according to a group of influential MPs.

Sellafield was site of Britain's worst nuclear accident in 1957 and was subject to a radiation scare at the end of last month. Credit: PA

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the cost would continue to rise and blasted "poor" progress at the Cumbria site.

They also accused Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), who were brought in to manage the clean up, of letting timescales slip and running a project with "escalating" costs.

Among a series of recommendations MPs called on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to terminate the contract with NMP if their performance did not improve.

The report said the consortium had been brought in six years ago to help Sellafield improve its performance and had its contract extended last October despite "spiralling costs and poor performance".

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Sellafield: Elevated radioactivity 'not attributable' to site

Sellafield Ltd can confirm that the radioactivity detected by one of our in-air monitors overnight is not attributable to any issue or problem with any of our operations on site.

Our in-air monitors are extremely sensitive and pick up on any abnormality. Overnight the monitoring system initially indicated elevated levels of activity. Following investigation and analysis, we can now confirm these levels to be naturally occurring background radon.

– sellafield ltd

Sellafield 'says reading due to variations in natural background'

The World Nuclear Association, which promotes civil nuclear energy, reports that Sellafield has put the elevated radioactivity reading down to "variations in natural background".

Irish government in contact with UK over Sellafield

Irish officials have been in contact with Britain over raised levels of radioactivity at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, the government has said.

Only around 112 miles (180km) separates the nuclear site from the coast of Ireland.

"Officials from the Department of the Environment have been in contact with their UK counterparts ... and will receive updates throughout the day," the Irish government said in a statement.

Higher radiation levels 'encountered in everyday life'

Professor Richard Wakeford, professor of epidemiology at the University of Manchester, has said that the level of radioactivity detected at Sellafield is not above that "encountered in everyday life".

From the information currently available, it appears that an elevated level of radioactivity has been detected at the north of the site, but that it is at a low level above normal.

Such a level would not pose a risk to health that is more than encountered in everyday life, but until the cause of this increase has been identified, for example, what type of radioactive materials are responsible, the Sellafield management have told non-essential staff not to come into work.

– Professor Richard Wakeford, University of Manchester
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